Handling Chunk Of Red Oak From USS Constitution and Other Historic Artifacts
by Civilian Public Affairs Officer Max Lonzanidam, Naval History and Heritage Command
December 18, 2018
On any given day, visitors to the Hampton Roads Naval Museum have the opportunity to experience over 240 years of naval history. Visitors have the opportunity to peer through plexi-glass cases and get an up-close look at the wooden model of the sailing ship USS Cumberland, or awe at builder’s models of the USS America (CV-66) and the ill-fated USS Maine (ACR-1). These intricate models displayed behind plexi-glass provides visitors a glimpse into history. The museum also hosts model ship builders during the week, which offers visitors a rare opportunity to see history being built right in front of them.
Then there are special historical experiences like when museum volunteer Tony D’Angelo brought in a special piece of wood during September 2018. The chunk of wood resembled an aircraft chock block, and weighed a little over three pounds. It has a coat of varnish on it, and was rippled on a few sides, which indicated that it was once fused to other pieces. But when flipped on its front, the name USS Constitution is clearly visible and etched in the wood.
The USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat, underwent a drydock period from 1973-1974 prior to her bi-centennial celebration. During that time, large pieces of red oak were removed and replaced with white oak; including pieces of her deck and hull ribs. Tony D’Angelo, a museum volunteer with the Hampton Roads Naval Museum, was able to receive a piece. He brought the artifact to the museum on September 27, 2018. (Image created by USA Patriotism! from U.S. Navy photos by Civilian Public Affairs Officer Max Lonzanida)
Tony was present in Boston sometime in 1973-1974. He saw the USS Constitution as it entered drydock, and during that time period, large chunks of red oak were removed from the ship and replaced with white oak. White oak was used because of its durability, and in 1976, a grove of trees consisting of white oak was established at the Naval Support Activity in Crane, Indiana. The dedicated grove of white oak trees spans thousands of acres, and includes mature white oak trees that are marked by GPS for use in repairing the worlds oldest commissioned warship, the USS Constitution.
She was dry docked numerous times since she was launched in 1797. The drydock period in 1973-1974 was in preparation for the iconic sailing ship’s bi-centennial; and Tony was given the piece to take with him as a memento. This memento served as a wonderful piece of touchable history for visitors, who were encouraged to touch and handle the artifact.
One of the museum’s resident volunteer model ship builders, Lee Martin, was busy toiling away at a model of the USS Constitution. Lee Martin tells visitors that he has been building model ships since he was a child, but obviously less intricate ones. He is also part of the Hampton Roads Ship Model Society, and volunteers during the week at the museum doing what he enjoys; building ship models. Lee was happy to showcase the intricate model that he was working on, and also hand visitors the piece of wood from the ship. Lee commented that it is rare to have visitors handling artifacts, and this was a big plus for him. Lee commented that visitors were delighted to see him work on the sheathing and building the deck of the model, but it was even more delightful to have visitors handle the chunk of wood to give them an idea of what the USS Constitution was made of.
Lee Martin, a volunteer model ship builder who was in the gallery working on a model of the USS Constitution, the world’s oldest commissioned naval vessel still afloat, at the Hampton Roads Naval Museum on September 27, 2018, when Tony D’Angelo, a museum volunteer, graciously loaned him a piece of red oak from the USS Constitution. (U.S. Navy photo by Civilian Public Affairs Officer Max Lonzanida)
The museum also assembled some of its artifacts to be 3D printed in May 2018 when Don Darcy, their Exhibits Specialist, scanned some of the artifacts ... A bell dating back from 1944 from Tinian Island; a shell from a Blakely rifle aboard the CSS Florida; a Civil War Era pipe; and, a printed picture of the Battle of the Capes are on-display outside of their respective plexi-glass cases. All are replicas that were 3D printed, and visitors are encouraged to touch and interact with the artifacts.
The same 3D printed artifacts are also on display at the nearby Hermitage Museum, where they are showcased in a new exhibit, 3D printing the Smithsonian. The exhibit features 3D printed artifacts from the museum, Sargeant Memorial Collection, Hunter House Victorian Museum, the Chrysler Museum of Art and Nauticus; all are on display at the Hermitage Museum for visitors to touch and handle through December 2018.
About Hampton Roads Naval Museum
The Hampton Roads Naval Museum is one of ten Navy museums that are operated by the Naval History & Heritage Command. It celebrates the long history of the U.S. Navy in the Hampton Roads region of Virginia and is co-located with Nauticus in downtown Norfolk, Virginia. Admission to the museum is free, simply by-pass the ticket line and take the stairs or elevator to the museum on the second deck. The museum hosts a robust educational program for area schools and commands, with free educational programs to area schools aligned with state curriculum standards, a traveling sea chest program, a premier Lego outreach program, and historical presentations for area commands. The museum is also host to a robust volunteer corps, who serve as docents, support special events, and assist in museum archives